It is always against the law to knowingly enter false information into official documents, but the consequences vary according to which kinds of documents include false information. For example, a lot of people lie about their income on their tax returns. Most of the time, they do not face criminal penalties; instead, they just have to pay more than they would have paid if they had been truthful from the beginning. Lying about one’s income on applications for SNAP benefits is also common. In most cases, though, people caught lying on their food stamp applications simply lose their SNAP benefit eligibility; only sometimes do they get criminal charges.
By contrast, lying on a passport application is a federal crime, and the consequences for a conviction are similar to those for other nonviolent felonies.
If you are being accused of passport fraud, contact a Texas white-collar crime lawyer at the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC.
How Does Passport Fraud Occur?
Forgery of passports is not the most common form of passport fraud. Passports today have so many security features that it is virtually impossible to make a fake one that is convincing enough to fool the folks at passport control. Therefore, most passport fraud involves a passport that is completely genuine and issued by the U.S. government. Instead, the fraud comes in the form of the statements the applicant makes in order to obtain the passport. For example, the applicant might falsely claim to be a U.S. citizen. In other cases, the applicant obtains the passport in someone else’s name, using that person’s identifying information, but then presents the passport as if it is his or her own. If you do this, you can face charges for identity theft in addition to passport fraud.
You can also be charged with passport fraud or identity theft if you take someone else’s passport and use it as your own. Some people who do this do not attempt to alter the photo on the passport; instead, they use the passport of someone who looks similar to them, such as their sibling.
Penalties for Passport Fraud
Because passports are official documents issued by the federal government, passport fraud cases usually go through the federal courts. Passport fraud is a felony. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $250,000 and a sentence of ten years in federal prison.
Defenses to Accusations of Passport Fraud
If you are accused of passport fraud, you are innocent until proven guilty, and you have the right to representation by a criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will help you identify the best defenses to use. Generally, defenses related to the state not being within its rights to obtain the evidence do not work in passport fraud cases, as official government documents, passports, and passport applications are the government’s business. Instead, you may argue that you genuinely believed that the statements on the application were true.
Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC About Criminal Defense Cases
A Dallas criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are being accused of passport fraud. Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC, to discuss your case.